Thursday 22 February 2018

Colm O'Rourke: GPA needs a new chief and I know just the man

Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

I noticed recently that Dessie Farrell is stepping down from the onerous task of guiding the GPA so I thought to myself that this was a great opportunity for a fellow like me to improve myself on the political side of the GAA and apply for the job. Naturally enough, this role is one of great importance so I decided it might be appropriate to test my credentials by way of an open letter to the public and see if there is any merit in a full-blown application for the job.

Being of humble origins and heavily involved in club activity, I realise that this part of my CV would have to be shredded immediately. County players are too important to have someone who likes club football more than county at the helm.

A task like this needs total attention and attempting to improve the lot of club players only muddies the water with regard to the big games in Croke Park. Some may feel that they could co-exist but in fact club football is a serious handicap to the county scene and my first big policy move would be to ensure county players only play with their clubs when it is absolutely necessary.

Then there is the issue of spending the €6.9 million which the GAA have handed over. Now there are some out there who feel that this money could employ a couple of hundred coaches, pay off some debts clubs ran up improving facilities or even build a new stand in a place like Navan, where the need is great.

However, those who form the great unwashed have to realise that the wellness of players, their food and general comforts must be paid for before any of this could be allowed to trickle down to the bottom. I would employ a PR company to get this message across and whatever it might cost would be well spent.

As well as that, it would be the PR company's role to ensure that in discussing county football, terms like pressure, stress, dedication and commitment would be used and there would a blanket ban on any mention of enjoyment, the thrill of playing in Croke Park, friendships formed, job opportunities or the balanced, healthy lifestyle that is part of the county scene.

Then there is the minor issue of travel expenses. There are some club players living in Dublin from far-flung places like Kerry, Mayo and Donegal who travel home every weekend without a hint of money. The clubs cannot afford it and the players never as much as mention the costs involved. If they made it to the county team, we in the GPA would ensure that their mileage rates would match the civil service and that all their food requirements would also be catered for. None of this stopping at a motorway filling station for a quick roll. No, a county man must eat nuts, fruit, special cereals, pasta and other foods that the ordinary club player could not even spell. Mother's stew after a hard day's work is not on either, it just doesn't sound salubrious enough for a county player.

So again as chief of the GPA I would feel it necessary to educate the masses that dietary considerations for county players, which is over a million euro worth in the latest grant, is not just money well spent but far more is needed.

Let the rest eat cake as Marie Antoinette said before the French revolution; in the case of the club player it might be a bit of brown bread and jam. Anyway, the official policy of the GPA under my watch would be that club players should not travel home to their clubs at all. They would be better off with a social life in Dublin and the GPA could arrange a few passes into Coppers to keep them in Dublin at weekends.

When it comes to the international wing of the GPA, I would not be found wanting either. Naturally, this would involve a lot of travel to conferences in some of the great cities of the planet to listen to talks on world hunger, opening the eyes of players to new horizons, locker room talk with Donald Trump and similar matters of high importance. And even if I did not have a clue what was going on, I could assume an air of major significance because you would not know when something like this could crop up at an O'Byrne Cup game in January.

In terms of running an annual junket to New York, I would feel honour-bound to make the great sacrifice of travelling first-class. Now I also realise that I would have to bring a party of my friends and their spouses to such an event, but I think I could manage to round up the usual suspects. Obviously it would take a while to educate them as world ambassadors for such events but people seem to learn quickly once they get their snouts in the trough.

Of course they would also have to be willing to play golf at some of the very best courses around New York, be driven around in limousines and eat in the best restaurants. All free gratis of course but spreading the gospel is never cheap.

It could take at least 30 seconds to convince my friends that this was part of a very important role for the GPA. And if any of them started asking questions about trying to do something about club fixtures, I would put them in their place fairly lively by reminding them that when the Yanks make a return visit courtesy of the GPA to play golf in The K Club, they might miss out on the invitation if they ever raised anything about the plight of club players.

A man at the top of an organisation like the GPA has to impose rigid discipline on people who don't understand what is important.

There would have to be an educational element to the GPA under my control too and it is always vital to keep things like scholarships close to the centre of power.

A few could be dispersed to players down the country to keep the troops in line, but obviously the main ones are kept for the inner circle.

Educating the masses might only cause dissent and there are enough half-baked journalists like Joe Brolly taking cheap shots at the GPA. Worse still, most of what he says is true but it is always useful to get all the paid representatives around the country to get on twitter to try and rubbish any bad news. My role here is to absolutely dispute everything Brolly says, whether it is true or not.

A vital part of being the GPA head honcho is to never appear bored by any of the top officials in the GAA and to always tell them that they are doing a great job in looking after the players, county players of course.

'Never bite the hand that feeds you' is an old Irish saying and I would even be willing to go to Congress to maintain the great relationship with the gravy train - sorry, the top GAA officials. If they feel that we should look happy taking all of their money then it is smiles all round.

Now this is only a brief synopsis of what is really involved in such a job as chief bottle-washer of the GPA or Chief Executive as it is called in some quarters.

On the basis of what I have written it may not look like a huge sacrifice to take on such a big job with a nice motor car under you, all expenses paid and a sizeable salary, but without the GPA this great community-based voluntary organisation called the GAA could disappear. No chance of that but that is our message.

Anyway, I am prepared to offer my services and hope this application makes a long, maybe everlasting impression on those from the GPA who will make the appointment.

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